Lawnmower buying questions

I have a large grassy weedy area that needs regular mowing. I went by Sears last night and was floored with all the choices of mowers. Please answer a few questions for me:
1. I am attracted to the self-propelled gas-powered models. What is the advantage of a variable speed model over a single speed? The area to mow is relatively flat with a couple of sizeable dips/depressions.
2. Most of them had Briggs-Stratton motors. One had a Honda motor. The ones I am interested in are 5 to 7 hp with most being 6.5 hp. Any thoughts on make and motor size?
3. Most had 21 inch cuts but a couple were 22 inches. It seems that the 22 inch would do the work a little faster but may be less maneuverable.
4. Most had regular size wheels but a couple had large back wheels. Would the bumpy terrain benefit much from the larger back wheels? Any other benefits?
5. One had a push-button starter while most started by pulling a rope-starter. A couple said that they started faster and easier because of a some kind of "hotter engine" technology.
Guess those are my questions for now. They are all in the $250-400 price range. Thanks for your advice/suggestions.
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The single speed is just about right for most people. It's also a little simpler in design making problems less likely.

5 HP is usually more than you need for a walk behind self propelled mower.

I don't think the average person would notice the difference.

I don't like the plastic rear wheels and on some models at different height adjustment the 'tires' actually rubbed againt the bolts on the frame.

They start easy but engines are rarely hot when you start them :-)

I have a 21" cut 6.25HP model with rear discharge. Bag or mulch. It is a nice mower except for the plastic rear wheels. They rub at lower height settings. I use it in places where the rider mower won't go.
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More speed, more cutting/discharge power, but I haven't seen much difference on the variable speed mowers I've owned which have only been two speeds, but YMMV. I don't care for self-propelled mowers. It's not very difficult and it's little enough exercise to push a mower around a lawn once or a couple times a week, and self-propelled is just something else to break, though it may be justified if one is sickly or weak or the area to mow is exceedingly large. Again, YMMV.

Maneuverability would depend more on design than 1 inch difference in cut. The 22 inch would obviously cut a larger swath than the 21, but by only 1 inch, so not worth paying more for.

Manufacturers tout large back wheels as making the mower easier to push and more maneuverable, but it ain't so according to Consumer Reports (you may want to look up a recent mower review) and as far as I'm concerned having had small and large rear wheel models. I find large rear wheels a nuisance as they get in the way adjusting height. Large wheels do nothing with bumpy terrain. Don't pay extra for them, and I would avoid them.
You didn't ask, but I prefer a mulching mower, with available side discharge. Mulching is good for the lawn, saves landfill space, and saves the work of pushing around the weight of a bag of cut grass and of constantly emptying the bag. Also, I find a mulching/side discharge mower easier to maneuver.
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Luke
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wrote:

quarter acre area of grass that we cut, that a $130 (US dollars) Wal Mart 3.5 HP Briggs and Stratton or Tecumseh engined mower with zero extra features is your best bet. I'm in my 70s and find that normal mowing on our slightly rough and uneven half acre which includes the house-garage footprint, fairly easy, using the normal precautions of steel toed foot wear and eye protection. Simple, reliable (despite being left out under the snow one winter!), easy to maintain, lightweight and therefore easy to store, because of the lack 'extras', no grass clipping bags to drag or wear out, no complicated drives to the wheels etc. Lighter weight is also an asset making it easier to lift into the trunk of a car or pickup if you DO need to take it somewhere for maintenance by others or to the summer place. You can, if you wish, easily fit a leaf mulching blade. such a light weight machine. Fairly light but the motors are pretty rugged; even if you hit a stone/rock and stall the motor I've never yet bent a crankshaft or ever broken the hub that the mounts the blade. The only thing simpler (and perhaps not much cheaper?) is a mechanical 'push-mower' but I think they work well on flatter surfaces such as a golf green? Typical 3.5 HP gas mowers are cheap to replace, their cost, here, has gone up by only about $20, during the last six to eight or so years. Our mowers tend to last at least 15-20 years anyway. I think our present one of the approximately three others we've owned since 1960 (the others were all second hand!) is the first ever we bought new. It's about ten years old and the only maintenance has been a couple of spark plugs, a change of oil, sharpening the blade a few times and once a new pull starter rope. (Oh yes and I painted the engine cowling once after the left in the snow incident!) probably a total maintenance cost of less than $20? Originally came with non adjustable height wheels; last year somebody scrapped a mower and gave me the adjustable type wheels which I've fitted. Adjustment useful this year to attack the increasing prevalence of dandelions in this region using a temporarily lower setting. Recommendation. KISS = Keep it something simple. PS. And watch out for those toes. A work buddy of mine lost 2.5 of them wearing rubber boots!
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Sometimes it is an advantage to have a slow speed when the grass is tall and thick. I like the newer models that senses the operator's speed.

prefer the higher horsepower.

It does. Manuverability has more to do with the housing, wheels and hanle design.

over bumpy areas will help. Better yet, fill in the bumps with soil.

The ones that have ignition start have a battery. From what I know, these do not last long and not worth the extra $50.

Other points. Front-wheel drive mowers are not too good on hilly areas. A doughnut-shaped deck is best for mulching operations.
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Phisherman wrote:

My two choices are Honda and John Deere with Kawasaki engine. I have a 10 year old John Deere and been running flawless every summer. Tony
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